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October 22, 2019

Harris, Esks focused on taking first half of back-to-back against Riders

Larry MacDougal/CFL.ca

EDMONTON — The Edmonton Eskimos are headed to the playoffs, and following a bye in Week 19, they’ll return to action on Saturday when they welcome the Saskatchewan Roughriders to Commonwealth Stadium for the first half of a back-to-back to end the 2019 campaign.

As the team tries to clean up its game as much as possible heading into the postseason, they got a big boost to the lineup, as starting quarterback Trevor Harris was activated from the six-game injured list on Monday. While there is still not a clear plan as to how much he’ll factor into the game, Head coach Jason Maas did say that his star signal-caller will be at 100 percent.

“It’s great to have Trevor back,” Maas said to Esks.com. “We knew he was close even going back to the last game against BC, we thought he might be ready to go. He just didn’t quite feel good enough so he took the extra week — it ended up being two weeks — and he’ll be ready to go here this week.”

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The Eskimos are coming in winners of two of their last three games. They were able to go into their bye on a high note, topping the BC Lions in Week 18 to seal their spot in the playoffs.

Harris had been out of action since Week 13 when he was forced to leave the team’s game against the Calgary Stampeders after suffering an injury to his throwing arm.

Logan Kilgore has been under centre since the halfway point of that game and started the past four contests in place of Harris. The 29-year-old had 1,115 yards and four touchdowns while completing 67 percent of his passes over that span. The backup was happy to contribute to the team in a meaningful way and is looking forward to helping out the rest of the way — regardless of the capacity.

I just love being out here with the team no matter what role it is,” he said. “Natey (Adjei) said it great earlier in the year where he was like ‘we don’t need a bunch of superstars. We need guys to be superstars in their role.’ If all I did was hold field goals all year, I would try to do that the best that I could.

“I definitely do have a small sense of pride knowing I helped us get to one of our goals this year. Just like every other week, if Trevor is back and ready to go, we’ve got to prepare the same and be ready to go and help him in any way that I can and always stay ready.”

Before his injury, Harris was in the midst of an MOP-worthy campaign, tossing for 3,706 yards and 15 touchdowns with just four interceptions in 12 outings. He was on pace to shatter his previous career-high of 5,116 passing yards set last season with Ottawa.

The 33-year-old said that this is the most time he’s missed in his entire football career and added that even when he’s had injuries, he’s never experienced one like this — where he hasn’t been able to power through. He related the inability to throw the ball to Spiderman not being able to shoot webs. Thankfully for both Harris and the team, he’s back to full strength.

“Sometime during the week, I felt like I really turned a corner and to where the strength was coming back,” Harris said. “I was able to throw the ball with touch, with velocity, with accuracy, and on time without any hesitation. I tried to play last week but they were just being cautious and smart which, looking back in hindsight, was smart. I’m just happy to be back.”

That’ll be easier said than done, as his return comes against one of the best defences in the league in Saskatchewan. Against BC in Week 19, the Riders’ defence had six sacks, two forced fumbles, and an interception. They were still able to get to the quarterback despite missing starting defensive lineman Micah Johnson, who was placed on the one-game injured list.

Harris has the weapons to really do damage in this game. Running back C.J. Gable is nursing an injury of his own, making his status for Saturday unclear, however, Greg Ellingson, DaVaris Daniels, Ricky Collins Jr., and Adjei will all be ready to go against the Riders. With Harris back in at quarterback, this passing attack immediately becomes one of the most dangerous in the entire league.

Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Trevor Harris stands in the pocket and delivers a pass. (The Canadian Press)

While an impending playoff matchup looms in just a few week’s time, the Eskimos still need to focus on the Riders, who will be a great test in the final two games of the year. Week 20 will be the last time the team plays at Commonwealth Stadium in the regular season and Maas is making sure his team takes care of business in front of the home faithful.

“Ultimately, our plan is to take it one game at a time and our focus is just this week on Sask,” Maas said. “We obviously want to finish the season off strong here at home, winning a ball game, and then the next week will take care of itself.”

– With files from Esks.com